‘Third Story’ is full of charm

From left, Rick Park, Erin Eva Butcher and Jordan Ben Sobel put on a, umm, breathtaking show with “The Third Story.”

“The Third Story” is twisted, convoluted storytelling rife with humor, madness and, in quintessential Charles Busch fashion, strong women played by a man in a dress.

In lesser hands, camp and kitsch could easily dominate the production, but fledgling Titanic Theatre Company has found the perfect formula for capturing Busch’s madcap magic.

Mother/son issues are front and center in this sometimes confusing but always hilarious noir-like collection of stories. The sparring of the only “real” characters, Peg and Drew, is key to making this production work. Shelley Brown and Jordan Sobel trade caustic, passive-aggressive quips with riotous precision and flawless authenticity, providing the perfect backdrop for the remaining tales to unfold.

Rick Park delivers an impressive trio of performances in pumps as female gangster Queenie, Russian witch Baba Yaga and Queenie 2, the lab creation who’ll replace the ailing original mob boss. Playing every word and gesture with the seriousness of a Greek tragedy, Park’s (ahem) straight delivery could easily be a master class in the art of comic camp.    

Brett Milanowski brings great physical comedy and impeccable timing to his stellar turn as the other lab creation Zygote, while Alisha Jansky is superb as his creator Dr. Constance Hudson. Erin Eva Butcher rounds out the perfectly-cast ensemble in dual roles as voluptuous Verna and the shy Russian princess.

Director Adam Zahler smartly keeps the Oedipal fur flying by simply telling the stories. The abundance of humor in this production comes as a byproduct of the talented troupe resisting the temptation to go for the laughs. Thankfully, they know enough to let the brilliantly funny Busch do the comedic heavy lifting. He rarely disappoints.

If you go
‘The Third Story’

Through Saturday
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St., Watertown
$20, 617-923-8487


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